in: West European Politics 38: 3, 601-626.
Previous studies identified several determinants that help explain candidate states’ compliance with EU accession conditionality. However, one influence has largely been neglected so far: states’ spatial dependency. Is it possible to observe diffusion to the extent that states’ interlinkages allow their compliance with the acquis communautaire to be assessed? Are candidate states more – or perhaps even less – likely to comply with EU law when other candidates do? The paper seeks to address these questions. By building on existing research on policy diffusion, it develops a theoretical framework for studying candidates’ compliance with EU law over the accession process according to their spatial dependence. The theoretical argument focuses on ‘competitive learning’ and is tested with quantitative data. The results suggest that candidates’ levels of compliance are indeed driven by spatial interlinkages; however, free riding seems more prevalent than enhanced compliance.
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